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Set in a detention camp in an America of the near-future, Punishment Park’s pseudo-documentary style (continuing Watkins’ subversive innovations with Culloden and The War Game) places a British film crew amongst a group of young students and minor dissidents who have opted to spend three days in ‘Bear Mountain Punishment Park’. The detainees, rather than accept lengthy jail sentences for their ‘crimes’, gamble their freedom on an attempt to reach an American flag — on foot and without water — through the searing heat of the desert. The pursuit of Group 637 — a lethal, one-sided game of cat-and-mouse with a squad of heavily armed police and National Guardsmen — is contrasted with the corrupt trial of Group 638 by a quasi-judicial tribunal.
Unlike Easy Rider’s mythologising of American counter-culture, Punishment Park’s uncompromising stance, and its uneasy parallels with Guantanamo Bay, retain a powerful and prescient message in the post-9/11 present.
Rarely seen in the UK, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to celebrate Punishment Park’s 40th anniversary with its first ever release on Blu-ray.
• 30-minute video introduction by Peter Watkins
• Full-length audio commentary by Dr. Joseph A. Gomez (author of the 1979 book Peter Watkins)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• 40-page booklet with two essays and reprints